The Soundtrack of the American Dream

Document created by Cari Goldfine Expert on Oct 18, 2018Last modified by Leah Rang on Jun 6, 2019
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Assignment by Cecilia Shelton, Bedford New Scholar 2018



Based on class discussions aimed at defining “popular culture” and “the American Dream”, students should think carefully about how this country has defined the dream that its citizens should aspire to and its relationship, if any, to popular culture.


In this assignment, students will prepare a creative interpretation of the American Dream by composing an album cover and writing a track list for an album entitled “The Soundtrack of the American Dream”. In addition, students will compose a response to their representation of the American Dream by writing an Album Review of their soundtrack that reflects a critical examination of how the American Dream actually manifests (or not) in the lives American citizens.


Overall the goal of this assignment is to define the American Dream as it is “sold” to us in popular culture and then to critique/evaluate that dream, based on the realities and complexities of aspiring to it.


Length Requirement/ Recommendation

  • The album cover should be the student’s graphic interpretation of the American Dream and should match the approximate size and shape of a typical CD album cover.
  • The track list should be composed of at least 10 songs, but no more than 15 songs.
  • The album review should be at least 250 words (which is approximately one typed page, double spaced)



  • Each of the songs selected by the student. The songs should be chosen for how they meaningfully represent some aspect of the American dream.
  • Sample album cover (distributed in class)
  • Sample album review (distributed in class)
  • The American’t Dream (The Purse Suit of Happyness) by Suli Breaks



No academic documentation style is required for this assignment. Student should be sure to list both the title and the artist of any song they include on their track list to attribute credit appropriately.


Writing Process & Due Dates

The following activities and assignments are designed to help you prepare your work over time. You should engage in all aspects of this writing process to produce a successful assignment.


Developing Ideas

  • Take careful notes during class discussions about defining “popular culture” and “the American Dream”
  • Think critically (more on how to do this in class) about the idea of the American Dream and how it unfolds in reality.


  • Examine a sample album cover and tracklist. What can you gather about the relationship that each song has with the others? What about the relationship between the songs and the title?
  • Examine the album review. What do you think the purpose of the review is? How does the review accomplish its purpose?


  • Prepare a tentative track list. After each song, write 1-2 sentences about what the song contributes to the album.
  • Outline your album review. What main points do you want to make and why? What evidence from your album (song choices, lyrics, song omissions) will you use to support your points?


  • Compare your track list with a friend’s. Do you notice that they cover an aspect of the American Dream that you omit? Or vice versa? Talk about why you each made the choices that you did to foster more critical thinking. Revise as necessary.


  • Submit the final draft of your album cover and album review on 01/14/13.


Organization Strategies

To prepare this assignment, students will benefit from reviewing examples of an album cover, track list, and album review. Examining the features of these items will help students understand the expectations of their assignment. Please review the details below and expect them to be further developed during class discussions.


Album Cover

The cover of your album should be a graphic representation of the American Dream. The saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words. Think carefully about the picture you use to portray the American Dream.


Track List

You track list should be composed of songs that have some symbolic meaning tied to the American Dream. It might be useful to think of the qualities or characteristics of the American Dream that you want to represent and then identify songs that communicate that quality or characteristic. You should also think about how the songs you choose fit together to tell the story of the American Dream.


Album Review

The album review is an opportunity for you to demonstrative the critical thinking skill you’ve practiced in class. A review is a critique of a particular work that identifies its strengths and limitations and justifies those claims by providing evidence. A review of an album usually aims to tell readers whether or not buying the album is worth it.

Think of your assignment as an analogy. You’ve tried to represent the “American Dream” that our culture wants us to “buy into” in your track list. Your review should critique that American Dream to tell your readers whether or not the American Dream is worth buying into.


Evaluation Criteria

When I evaluate your work, I will be looking to see how well you have followed the guidelines of this assignment sheet. That is, I will be looking to see how well you develop a creative interpretation of the American Dream in your album cover and track list and how well you critique the American Dream in your album review.


Your work will also have to meet the general criteria of good academic writing: a clear focus, logical and purposeful organization, strong use of supporting evidence, and thoughtful development of the ideas you are presenting. You may draw on both Standard American English and other, non-standard varieties of English (African American Vernacular English AAVE, for example) to make both style and grammar choices that function rhetorically. You are not bound by typical standards of “correctness” just for grammar’s sake—make choices that best express the ideas you are trying to convey. In addition, we will be discussing more specific evaluation criteria in class.



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